ST. LOUIS — It’s time.
Heading into this season, the Dodgers expected their two top pitching prospects, Gavin Stone and Bobby Miller, to make their big-league debuts at some point and impact the starting rotation to some degree. Injuries to Dustin May and Julio Urias in the past week — and Ryan Pepiot and Michael Grove earlier this year — have determined that timetable.
Stone and Miller will start back-to-back games for the Dodgers in Atlanta on Monday and Tuesday. For Stone, it will be his second MLB start. Miller will make his MLB debut.
“It’s not what we expected. But that doesn’t really matter,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of turning to the two prospects so early in the season. “So I think the only way to look at it is we’ve got to embrace this opportunity for these guys, and it’s up to all of us to make them comfortable and able to perform at a high level, because it shouldn’t be on … (them) to carry the brunt of it. It’s not.”
While May is expected to miss at least a month with his elbow injury, Urias will be eligible to return from the Injured List on June 3. Roberts said his hamstring injury is not considered to be serious enough to sideline him beyond that.
Meanwhile, Michael Grove began a minor-league injury-rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Oklahoma City on Sunday. He is expected to make at least two starts before he would also become an option to join the Dodgers’ rotation.
That leaves a “floor of three starts” for Stone, Roberts said. He would not comment on Miller joining the rotation.
Inserted into the rotation so the Dodgers could skip Noah Syndergaard for a turn, Stone made his debut on May 3 and allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits in four innings against the Phillies. Roberts said he expects Stone to be better the second time around.
“I think the unfamiliarity, the novelty of it — we’ve already done that,” Roberts said. “Also, I think he’s throwing the baseball better in general. The fastball command is better. The changeup is better. I just think that the second time around he’ll be a lot more comfortable than he was the first time.”
In two starts since returning to OKC, Stone has pitched well, allowing only three earned runs on seven hits while striking out 14 in 11 innings.
Miller had a late start to his season because of shoulder soreness. The Dodgers’ first-round draft pick in 2020 has made four starts and pitched just 14⅓ innings since joining OKC, with a 5.65 ERA. In his most recent start Wednesday, however, the hard-throwing right-hander went six innings, allowing one run on two hits while striking out six.
“The first thing is command,” Roberts said of Miller’s main challenge. “When you’ve got a big fastball, you can bully guys and overpower guys. And as you get higher up (in the organization), you can’t do that. Guys can spoil pitches. They can hit the fastball. So I think it’s two-part — it’s commanding the fastball and also being able to understand when and how to use his breaking stuff. Because skill-set-wise, there’s a lot of talent.”
In the Braves, Stone and Miller will be facing one of the better offenses in the majors (second to the Dodgers in the National League in runs scored and tied with the Dodgers for second in MLB in home runs going into Sunday’s games).
“I don’t want to parallel it to having kids, but you just never know when you’re really ready, right? Until you know,” Roberts said. “The skill set is there.
“There’s really no perfect landing spot. I just think when the situation presents itself, you’ve got to evaluate what are the options, internally or externally, and figure out what’s best.”
Dodgers (RHP Gavin Stone, 0-0, 9.00 ERA) at Braves (RHP Charlie Morton, 5-3, 2.85 ERA), Monday, 4:20 p.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM
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